Manganese (Mn) is both an essential biological cofactor and neurotoxicant. Disruption of Mn biology in the basal ganglia has been implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders, such as parkinsonism and Huntington's disease. Handling of other essential metals (e.g. iron and zinc) occurs via complex intracellular signaling networks that link metal detection and transport systems. However, beyond several non-selective transporters, little is known about the intracellular processes regulating neuronal Mn homeostasis. We hypothesized that small molecules that modulate intracellular Mn could provide insight into cell-level Mn regulatory mechanisms. We performed a high throughput screen of 40,167 small molecules for modifiers of cellular Mn content in a mouse striatal neuron cell line. Following stringent validation assays and chemical informatics, we obtained a chemical 'toolbox' of 41 small molecules with diverse structure-activity relationships that can alter intracellular Mn levels under biologically relevant Mn exposures. We utilized this toolbox to test for differential regulation of Mn handling in human floor-plate lineage dopaminergic neurons, a lineage especially vulnerable to environmental Mn exposure. We report differential Mn accumulation between developmental stages and stage-specific differences in the Mn-altering activity of individual small molecules. This work demonstrates cell-level regulation of Mn content across neuronal differentiation.
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